Wishful Wireless

Wireless this, wireless that. Wireless what? With all the hype surrounding wireless, you would think we would have seen something by now, right?

Well, a few services are starting to pop up around Barcelona. While showing some guests around Parc Guell not long ago, I noticed Telefonica (Spanish phone company) offered information at various points of interest in the park by calling a specific number. The prices were not too outrageous: 30 ptas to establish the call and 25 ptas per minute for the explanation. I was amused at the attempt to offer “location based mobile services”, however, I was unconvinced that it would tell me anything interesting and decided not to use it.

Another service from another telephone company, Amena, offers a new message service called Auna. By entering predetermined letters indicating a certain service (for example FAR for pharmacy) and sending the message to 2221, you are sent the location of the nearest pharmacy (or restaurant or gasoline station). That’s right. The one nearest to you.

Well, I couldn’t help but test the service. Standing in front of a pharmacy, I diligently entered “FAR” and sent it to 2221. First, I wondered how long it would take to get the answer back. I received 3 messages in a period of about 5 seconds. I was impressed with the response time.

I opened the first message expecting to see the address for where I was. I was not as impressed. I was given the address of a pharmacy two streets over and the second choice was for a pharmacy one street over. [Side note: If you’re familiar with Barcelona I sent the message from Roger de Flor and was given C./ Bailen and then Pg. de Sant Joan.]

Now, one street over is close. But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. This is a pay service. If you pay for one thing, you expect to get it. They were close, so I have to give them credit, however it wonÕt be a service I recommend to all my friends.

Another problem is the directions you are sent. If I weren’t familiar with Barcelona the service would really be lacking. “Rosa M Calvo Torras, Cl de Bailen 166, Barcelona, tel. 934580652” is nice to know but if I weren’t familiar with Barcelona, I would only know it wasn’t the street I was currently on.

Which leads me to wonder: Are location based services for locals or tourists? There seems to be an unclear mix. Auna is oriented towards locals, but the ability to find a restarurant or police station could be very useful for tourists as well.

Telefonica’s service is oriented toward tourists, although the information was in Catalan- which is quite contradictory in itself.

Adding a map with the ubiquitos “You are here” and adding a nice “X” to mark where you need to go would be great. It would be even better to see a blinking light that moved when I movedÉadvancing towards the “X” on the map.

But, that seems to be quite a ways off. Until these services get better I guess I’ll stick with the tried and true method of finding what I want in an area I’m unfamiliar with

“Excuse me, sir. Could you tell me where the nearest pharmacy is?”

Until next time, Happy wishing!

Jason Ball

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